Nature Photography

Okanagan Woman and Magic

Strange, the things that come in the mail all on their own. There I was reading over coffee, looking over a manuscript about this valley, and thinking about the mail. So I got the mail. “Okanagan Woman” came in the mail. I think she was a message. But what?  Are there forces out there which wish to speak to us? Is this the only way they can speak? If so, what is she trying to say?

What about women who aren’t white ancestral figures? What do they make of approaches like this from the long pre-modern history of the Baltic? I don’t know. What about the real power of spirits like that — Hans Anderson’s 1844 “The Snow Queen” is mentioned in the magazine — who froze children’s hearts? She is a combination of ancient gnostic religion, the Lady of the Lake, the well at the root of the Tree of the World, from which the god Oðin received blindness and sight (in the form of two ravens) and a Christian sermon. There is also a troll, who creates suffering, in place of Eden’s more familiar snake. Is she telling me to stop reading Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash, which neatly dissects the class conflicts that created White culture in these grasslands, by showing their long, long roots in elite culture and its relationship to slavery, and worse? I don’t know. I am deeply troubled though. Perhaps, though, this is not what the reference is. It’s about beauty, certainly. Perhaps this is what this creature from deep in the ancestral past has become now, courtesy of the robots in Seattle (see below). Friendly stuff. But is it friendly? And Is it beautiful? What do I know. I’m not a good commentator, because I do take ancestral memory seriously, and I don’t jest about spiritual power and I don’t find class behaviour particularly beautiful. Many, however do. Look below.

Thanks, Robots of Google

So much devotion and labour has gone into all of these images, I don’t think they have anything to do with the Snow Queen at all. Still, it troubles me. Should these ancient powers of darkness — a Wicked Witch of the West who melts to water at the touch of a pure heart — be called forth so casually? Is this what an Okanagan woman is now? Why? Who hurt her that much? What is she afraid of? Yes, fear. Look.


But not just fear. It opens into desire. Look. Inside, she opens up. She melts!



And why does she look so bruised? I’m sure she speaks to a lot of women and a lot of hurt (and there’s more than enough to go around), but what I’m puzzled by is how a group of people could live in an indigenous valley, apply a European concept of winter to a complicated set of interwoven grassland seasons, pull in an image from Northern Europe, of a white woman laboriously turned into an image of pure Whiteness (whatever that is), couple it with aristocratic flourishes circa 1790 and a dangerous dressing in elven motifs (surely trouble) and then ship it all out as a message — and, if the cover means anything, a celebration of holiday. In my experience, you don’t take such liberties with the gods. Do the editors of this magazine feel they are immune? I feel like they are playing with plutonium. But what do I know. I am 59 years old, male, and my hair looks like hers above without the hours of makeup work. Not much of the golden colour anymore, either. Death has me in her sights. Is that who created this magazine and shipped it out?  Is that who is staring out laughing through those eyes? Ah, but the editors were thoughtful. They put a magic carpet on the back of the magazine to whip us away to safety.

Is buying a magic carpet the way to save oneself from peril? Might one want to try some real magic? Might one just walk?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But now I’m wondering: what kind of spiritual message was the last white thing that came unexpectedly in the mail?

It’s starting to become a thing.

6 replies »

  1. Very thought-provoking, as always. I’m reminded of my sons’ elementary school’s upcoming winter gala. This year they’re throwing a White Party (have you heard of these? everyone dresses in white). Harmless enough, evoking the snow we probably won’t have here on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. But the school is predominantly black (African and African-American) and I wonder about the message being sent.


    • Wow. That’s very strange, isn’t it. It sounds very class-based to me.

      After all, there was that wonderful French film, La Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie. A group of middle class folks traipsing around France looking for somewhere to sit down and eat, the ultimate middle-class thing. Any other class would just eat.

      Couple that with the Diner en Blanc of French fame, surely a middle class thing, and one does wonder what is going on.

      Or is it some struggle to make sense of the mess of class and race, in which the two are hopelessly entangled, making clear discussion about either more than difficult? I doubt this movement is helping.

      I snooped around. Look what I found:

      Philosophy “White stands for purity”, as Frank Wager, co –founder of the White Party™ White is the balance of the full spectrum of all colours but it is not a colour in the rainbow. The White Party™ gives WHITE it’s well deserved place in the rainbow.

      To which I ask: what rainbow? The spectrum of colours? That’s funny. It’s not a part of the spectrum. In that case, a Black Party would be just as good. Or is the rainbow coalition, meant? The class of non-white people arguing for cultural respect? LGBT culture? Yes, that’s what was originally meant.

      I snooped some more. Then I found this, after following some threads about the US origins of the movement in gay activism surrounding the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic, and this:

      That picture is disturbing. Beautiful guys, of course, having fun, but that kind of “Indians” turned white and “Indians” as skeletons and bone, that’s just so awful it’s almost beyond words, especially in a region drained of its “Indians” by racist and class behaviour of the worst kind. So, not a part of a rainbow of cultural respect, not these guys, anyway. More like blind ignorance or something.

      And trouble in Kenya:

      All very strange. I like this variation: Black AND White:

      Looks better, too.

      Check out the 3 definitions here:


      And look at this: co-opting whiteness from whites. Ha ha ha. What a tangled business indeed.

      I like the chutzpah of the last one. Strange, though, this desire to become a uniform. Strange, too, that there is no mention of the KKK.

      So I looked:

      Oh dear. It IS a thing.

      What a brittle, fragile world it is when conversation is conducted by costume. Hmmmm…. Thank you for getting me to look more deeply into this. I’m sure a blog post will eventually follow, while I think further on this.


      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow–thank you for the research, Harold. I’d better watch that old French film, THE DISCRETE CHARM, again. And the KKK–I hadn’t even thought of that! Brittle, fragile world–fraught indeed. Why do we need to make it fraught-er? Yes, such interesting stuff. Thank you for digging deeper–certainly further creative inspection/inspiration needed here.


  3. Just got around to reading this (you are too prolific for me to keep up with! ) and I have to chuckle at your questions. Indeed, wouldn’t a walk outdoors be better than anything depicted in that magazine? No surprise that the dominant look is white, either.


    • Ha ha, I am too prolific for ME to keep up with myself. I agree with you, but, yet, there is still this magazine. Personally, I am shocked by all this whiteness. I mean, sheesh. There are all these beautiful people. But perhaps I’ve had a lifetime of being challenged to grow, and others haven’t yet begun. Who knows. I just hope that young woman gets free of these images.



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